Tag Archives: hacking

PTJ 89: Amazon Just Might Have Your Number

J.D. tells us how we can make a correction on a Google Map and  Pedro hopes The Big Apple finally gets its recommended daily allowance of Google Fiber. In the news, Amazon is said to be working on its own line of smartphones;  Facebook is ripping out the messaging functionality from its smartphone apps; Google purchases Titan Aerospace out from under Facebook; Samsung’s Galaxy S5 makes its official debut; Windows Phone 8.1 is getting raves; and a Linux distribution that leaves no trace on the host computer.

PTJ 89 News: Heads or Tails

Merely having its own tablet and TV set-top box is clearly not enough to keep up with Google and Apple: Amazon is said to be working on its own line of smartphones now as well. According to the Boy Genius Report site and a few other sources, the flagship Amazon touchscreen phone will run a modified version of Android and sport a glasses-free 3D interface that can quickly whisk you to Amazon’s various online store departments. (And of course, the Web, where you can check out the True Detective/Family Circus mashup, Time is a Flat Circus.)

So much for the all-in-one approach: Facebook is ripping out the messaging functionality from its smartphone apps and forcing users who want to exchange messages within the service to download its separate Messenger app. Facebook claims the division of services makes messaging better and faster, but privacy advocates suggest a visit into the app’s settings to turn off location stamps and other potential annoyances like those Chat Head things.

dronesHas there been a bit of upstreaming with the drones? According to The Wall Street Journal, Google has now slipped in and purchased Titan Aerospace, the drone maker of Facebook was flirting with earlier this year. However, The Social Network is paying $20 million for Ascenta, a company based in the United Kingdom that also makes unmanned solar-powered vehicles.

In mobile news, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 smartphone went on sale last week and seems to have sold a few units, even though Samsung has not released official sales figures yet.  T-Mobile continues to stomp the data-plan paradigm and says it’s going to stop charging penalty fees for customers who go over their monthly limits. The company’s CEO also threw down the virtual gauntlet with an online petition and challenged its national-carrier rivals AT&T, Sprint and Verizon to lay off the overcharges as well.

Windows Phone 8.1 is getting some good reviews, including one from the Ars Technica site that calls it “a magnificent smartphone platform.” The new mobile OS can apparently accept passes designed for Apple’s Passbook app and the new Cortana assistant got special raves.

The Netflix company blog reports that Comcast customers here in the States are seeing streaming speeds up to 65 percent faster here in March than in January. (Guess that special deal paid off.)

Hopefully, everyone has their servers patched and their passwords changed after the Heartbleed bug hit the headlines last week. The National Journal notes that while the bug was publicized on April 7th, the Google engineer and the Finnish security team at Codenomicon actually uncovered the flaw earlier in March. Google fixed its own servers and told a few other companies about the gaping security hole, but didn’t tell the US government.

Last week’s revelation of the Heartbleed bug sent a lot of people scrambling to change their passwords and shore up security — and for good reason. A new report from the Pew Research Center says 18 percent of adults using the Internet now say they’ve had important personal information stolen and 21 percent say they’ve had an mail or account with a social networking site compromised. (Remember when an occasional AOL email spoofing used to be the worst thing that ever happened?)

Talk about facetime: The FBI plans to have its state-of-the-art face recognition database up and running by this summer with more than 52 million photos on file — including those of people who have never committed a crime and have no reason to be in a law-enforcement database. Through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation requested documents regarding the FBI’s biometric database, Next Generation Identification, and published its findings. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is also keeping tabs on the NGI.

And finally, if privacy and security are on your mind, check out Tails. It’s the operating system Edward Snowden used in his work with the NSA. The Tails system is a Linux distribution that can run on almost any computer from a USB stick, SD card or DVD, where it leaves no trace on the host computer. Tails can offer anonymity to its users —unless of course, there’s a camera and face-recognition software nearby.

PTJ 83 News: Deals and Wheels

Cable companies are hooking up — with each other. Late last week, Comcast announced it had reached an agreement to take over Time Warner Cable for $45 billion dollars. Criticism over the deal flared up quickly, including a statement from former FCC commissioner Michael Copps, who said the merger would let the two companies “run roughshod over consumers in the end.” Several consumers took to the Internet themselves, lamenting a possible future of even more high prices and bad service. (Last year’s American Consumer Satisfaction Index survey ranked Internet providers and cable companies even lower than the airlines, another industry that’s seen a lot of mergers and a dwindling number of choices over the recent years.) The deal, which has not gotten the official government seal of approval yet, includes no breakup fee if it falls through. The Ars Technica site has an analysis of the proposed deal and how it might play out if the FCC steps in. In addition to consumer fears, the Comcast-Time Warner deal could derail a deal between Time Warner Cable and Netflix.

Meanwhile, much smaller cable company RCN is teaming up with TiVo and Opera Software are all joining forces together to bring the Opera TV Store to certain TiVo’s recorders. (Never heard of RCN? It’s a smaller outfit with service mainly along the major East Coast cities and Chicago.)

On the phone front, Federal lawmakers have followed the California Senate in proposing a new law that would require a kill switch on smartphones. Dubbed the Smartphone Theft Protection Act, the bill aims to cut down on theft and save consumers $30 billion a year in lost hardware and related costs. The wireless phone industry is not too keen on being told how to build phone hardware, however. Whatever happens, at least there are basic remote recovery tools in many phone operating systems now, like Android Device Manager, Find My iPhone or Windows Phone remote wipe.

Details about the Samsung Galaxy S5 phone are starting to percolate. Bloomberg News reports that the S5 will have a 5.2-inch display screen that’s sharper than the screen on the current S4 model, and have an improved camera and better battery life. Other sites claim the new model will have a fingerprint sensor and a spiffy new physical design.

The Kickstarter crowdfunding site got hacked this past weekend. If you’re a member of the site, change your password if you haven’t already. In a post on the Kickstarter company blog, CEO Yancey Strickler said no customer credit-card information had been accessed.

girlsclubSony’s PlayStation continues to outsell its main rival the Microsoft Xbox One. Sony announced it’s sold 5.3 million PS4 consoles since the hardware debuted last November, comparde to Microsoft’s sales of 3.9 million Xbox One units since its own November debut. Nintendo’s Wii U console has sold about 6 million units since it arrived in November 2012. Nintendo may be zeroing in on a certain segment of its user base, however. Over in the United Kingdom, the company has launched a new YouTube channel aimed at female gamers. It’s called Nintendo Girls Club and it features videos from British actors and bloggers on the latest gameplay and trailers.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day last week, Facebook added more than 40 new gender terms for users to use with their profiles on the site, expanding from the binary male/female to include transgender, intersex and a whole lot more. While many called the move progressive move into the modern world of gender identity, and editorial in the Guardian suggested that Facebook should get really radical and remove all gender options instead.

Also in the V-Day vibe, the Facebook Data Science group did a series of posts last week, sharing some of its research. One post was called “The Formation of Love,” and explained how Facebook can tell when you’re about to start a new relationship.

Ken Burns, a documentary filmmaker so iconic that he got a special effect named after him in Apple’s iPhoto software, now has an iPad app of his own. It, too, is called Ken Burns. Software Ken Burns is free to try and $10 to buy.

jetstreamMany New Yorkers have not been shy in complaining about the winter weather this year, but is there science behind it? (The weather, not New Yorkers complaining.) A study recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago, research was presented that suggested warmer temperatures in the Arctic have caused the jet stream to shift father south and take a longer path across the globe — and making for more sustained weather systems.

And finally, NASA says it’s solved the mystery of the jelly-shaped donut rock on Mars that seemed to suddenly appear in front of its Opportunity rover last month. The rock, as Mars-watchers know, looked like it showed up out of the blue in pictures the rover sent back to earth within the span of 12 Martian days. This set off all sorts of speculation about just how the rock got there, but NASA now says it was a broken-off piece of another rock that the rover ran over while it was exploring the area. Let’s hope Opportunity has its insurance card in the glove compartment in case the Martians file a claim.

PTJ 71: Righteously Rowdy

This week J.D. takes us for a ride on the video game way-back machine with a look at the new Historical Software Collection at the Internet Archive. Also in this episode Kaiser Pedro has some hopefully helpful hints about improving your battery life and protecting your privacy on an Apple device running their iOS 7 mobile operating system. In the news Google unveils its long-rumored Nexus 5 smartphone;  Apple looks to expand its manufacturing presence in the United States; hackers target a limousine service; Twitter makes its stock market debut; gamers lineup for the release of “Call of Duty: Ghosts”; and British supermarket chain Tesco wants to scan the faces of customers for advertisers.

PTJ 71 News: Halloween Candy

kitkat-androidLate last week, Google announced its new Nexus 5 smartphone running Android 4.4 KitKat, all nicely timed for Halloween. The KitKat update is expected for Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 devices — as well as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One — within the next few weeks, so hang tight, candy lovers. In the meantime, a Quick Start guide to Android 4.4 is available in the Google Play store. (In other Google News, the company has a new venture, called Google Helpouts, that promises real help from real people in real time and in some case, in exchange for real money.)

And while Google has a four-story mystery structure out in the San Francisco bay that’s had observers wound up and speculating for the past few weeks, Apple is being a little more transparent about its future plans, The company has announced a new plant in Mesa, Arizona, intended to make components for its products—maybe future iPads? And Apple’s iPad Air went on sale last Friday, but as of now, the company has not released its typical exuberant first-weekend sales numbers, some analysts estimate between 2.5 and 3.5 million Airs were sold; as for the cellular models, newcomer T-Mobile reportedly did very well. (Heard El Kaiser’s concerns about iOS 7’s Frequent Locations feature on the iPhone? Read more about it here.)

Although it got some flack last week when its original report went public, The Washington Post did another story this week about how it knew the National Security Agency had access to internal Google and Yahoo cloud data, and defended the first story. But wait, there’s more security news: hackers broke into Corporate Car Online, a company that takes reservations for Town cars and limousines. According to the Krebs on Security site, intruders made off with financial and personal information belonging to 850,000 people. Lebron James, Tom Hanks and Donald Trump were among the names reportedly grabbed in the data theft.

Twitter is supposed to go all IPO on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. Things aren’t totally smooth sailing, though as IBM has accused the bird-themed microblogging service of at least three patent infringements.

Call of Duty: Ghosts arrived this week for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PCs. The latest installment takes the player to a post-apocalyptic society after the US has been hit with a major attack. The game made a large amount of money on its first day, and gamers can play as female soldiers in this edition.

And finally, the British supermarket chain Tesco is installing high-tech cameras that can scan the faces of customers for advertisers. The ads are planned for the gas pumps and after scanning the face of a customer, will then present targeted advertising based on the sex and age detected. Other retailers have also begun to use scanning technology to roughly identify customers for tailored advertisements and websites are all over the tracking and targeting. But still: today the face, tomorrow the eyes.

PTJ 65 News: Lyin’, Cheatin’ and Stealin’

Don’t be makin’ stuff up— the state of New York is cracking down on fake Internet reviews on sites like Yelp, Yahoo and Citysearch and issued fines of about $350,000 to more than a dozen companies who got caught singing their own praises—or paying others to do it for them, including people in other countries who had never used the services in question. The State of New York has been busy the past week or so, and also introduced “text stops” along the highway for people who need to pull over and send a message.

In other legal news, LinkedIn is getting sued by several of its customers, who claim the professional networking site hacked into their personal external e-mail accounts and downloaded the address books for marketing purposes. A post on a company blog by LinkedIn’s senior director of litigation states that the accusations are false. Stay tuned.

On a happier note, Google is revamping the way YouTube uploaders manage the comments on their sites, which may help knock the trolls farther down and out of sight. (While we’re waiting for the new system to roll out, don’t forget the Pop Tech Jam guide to blocking online comments.)

As expected, Microsoft announced the next generation of its Surface tablets. The Surface Pro 2 runs on an Intel Core i5 Haswell processor. The less-powerful Surface 2 tablet was also announced this week. While Microsoft soldiers on trying to carve out more market share for its tablets and smartphones, BlackBerry reported major losses and layoffs, and also announced it was selling itself for $5 billion to Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, a Canadian finance firm.

Apple’s new iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s went on sale last Friday and sold more phones over the weekend than BlackBerry did for the entire last quarter. So while the battle of the fruit-themed smartphone companies has been decided, but Apple’s products are taking bites out of other firms as well. After the arrival of iTunes Radio last week, the Web radio service Pandora saw its stock from 10 percent. Apple also pushed out iOS 7 last week, and the bug hunters have been having a ball.

In other Apple news, the childhood home of the late company co-founder Steve Jobs could be made a protected site by the Los Altos Historical Commission in California.

If you thought your Gmail was slow earlier this week, that wasn’t your friends and colleagues ignoring you — that was Google having problems delivering messages and attachments to its 425 million users. The situation was resolved about 12 hours later, with a dual network failure taking the blame.

Worried about someone swiping your Android device and getting into your stuff? You can now lock a lost device remotely with the latest version of the Android Device Manager. To use it, just log into the Android Device Manager Web page with your Google or Gmail user name and password and follow along.

In gaming news, Valve is busting out its own Linux-based SteamOS designed for gaming on TV screens. The SteamOS home page has more information, and the company is also working on Steam Machines (not to be confused with those things you rent a couple times a year to get all the mashed Cheetos and Gatorade stains out of the carpet).

lasereyesDo you hate it when you take pictures of your cat and it has those weird glowing eyes? Adobe has  added a new feature to its brand new Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 software. Yes, now you can use the “Pet Eye” tool to correct those weird green and yellow distortions in the eyes of your cats and dogs, just like you can use the Red Eye tool to get the demon gaze out of human eyes.
Most of the time.

Episode 59: Welcome to SNARK WEEK!

This week J.D. shares tips on how to use the web to get the perfect digital camera then she and Pedro discuss the recent announcement that veteran British actor Peter Capaldi will take a turn as the time travelling Time Lord, Doctor Who. In the news Comcast is working on a new system urging users to download copyrighted material legally; CBS and Time Warner Cable continue their Battle of the Gargantuans; Samsung maybe inching closer to unveiling a smartwatch; the FBI may be targeting Firefox users on the TOR network; and not even your toilet is immune from the hacking scourge.

Episode 59 News: Cable Vision

Would you like fries with that illegal download — or at least, a Buy button? According to a report in Variety, Comcast is said to be working on a new system where ISPs that sense users downloading copyrighted material from sharing sites and then sends out a pop-up message to the user with links to legally purchase the same content. Meanwhile, the squabble between Time Warner cable and CBS continues and viewers are not amused.

In the Department of New Stuff, the National Football League has released its new mobile app for Android, BlackBerry and iOS. LinkedIn has also updated its mobile app to allow job-hunters to apply for listed positions right within the app. The Smartwatch Watch continues. PC World and other sources have reported that Samsung has filed a US trademark on the name “Samsung Galaxy Gear.”

No one one’s surprise, Google announced the new Moto X smartphone last week. In a move that surprised pretty much everyone in media, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, bought the Washington Post newspaper this week for $250 million dollars, or the change in the cushions of his couch.

New malware found in sites hosted by Freedom Hosting is targeting Firefox users on the Tor network. Because the malware sends the user’s information to someplace in Reston, Virginia, some security researchers are thinking the FBI may be involved in the hack.

Last week, we worried about cars getting hacked. This week, high-tech toilets could fall victim to foul play. Trustwave, a security company, recently put out a warning about the Android app used with luxury Satis smart toilets made by Lixil. Because the Bluetooth PIN for the app is hardcoded to 0000, a hacker could grab a copy of the app, pair up a device with your toilet and then assume control of the bidet function or abuse the high-tech commode’s Direct Vortex Flush. (With ABC television executives talking to folks in Disney’s new Lucasfilm division about possibly producing a live-action Star Wars TV show, maybe they could use some new characters — like Direct Vortex Flush, Sith apprentice.)

Need a tablet computer? Microsoft has dropped the price on its pricier Surface Pro tablet computers. Apple’s iPad saw a sales decline of its own during this past quarter. According to IDC, the iPad went from having 60.3 percent of the tablet market last year at this time to 32.4 percent here in 2013. The new hardware rumors are starting to heat up for fall, though, with “a Retina display iPad Mini with different color options that arrives next month” as one of this week’s whispers.

In other quick Apple bites, the company is offering to replace third-party chargers. Apple is also set to restore the rest of the services on its developer site this week, as it finishes overhauling the system in wake of last month’s security issues (and just in time to push out a fifth beta for its iOS 7 software due out this fall). Oh, and Electronic Arts has announced that Mac gamers can play Sim City starting August 29th. Mark your calendars.

tapeAnd finally, we have two notable milestones to acknowledge this month. August 5th marked the the first anniversary of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars — NASA has a video. August also marks the 50th anniversary of the humble cassette, which made its official debut at a radio show in Berlin in 1963. Still have a recorder and a few old blank tapes out in the garage? Here are some song ideas for a Mars-worthy mix.

Episode 58 News: Drive My Car

We’re deep into summer and you know what time that is — it’s time for DEFCON, the annual gathering of hacking enthusiasts in Las Vegas. There have been some announcements ahead of the event, including two researchers who were able to stop, start and steer a car with an old Nintendo handset and also control it with a laptop. (Forbes has some video.)

It wouldn’t be the Internet without malicious trolls, and heinous behavior over in the UK and an online petition recently has led Twitter to promise a new button on every tweet for reporting abuse on a company blog. Critics of the plan have chimed in to basically say it’s time to stop blaming technology and social media for society’s problems like rampant misogyny and racism, and maybe we ought to do something about those. Others worry that the abuse button itself may get abused.

bundroidGoogle popped out a couple of shiny new pieces of hardware last week, including the upgraded Nexus 7 tablet and a tiny, pocket-drive-sized media streamer called the Chromecast. The latter has some bugs to work out and a limited number of services it streams, but it is getting decent early reviews. However, Vimeo and RedBox Instant are also on the way. Google also found time to make big improvements to the old Zagat site, which it owns.

Apple released its iTunes 11.1 beta software to its registered developers this week along with the fourth version of its iOS 7 beta. As for hardware, the rumor mill is still grinding away with talk of a possible lower-priced iPhone arriving with the annual high-end upgrade. The new top-of-the-line model may also include a biometric fingerprint sensor, according to programmers looking deep into the iOS 7 betaware. Apple has a few legal issues to deal with this week as well. A Chinese labor rights group has a report out with new allegations against one the contractors used to make iPhones and other devices; Apple told the Wall Street Journal it was working with the group and investigating. Closer to home, some former Apple Store employees have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Mother Ship claiming retail workers routinely had to wait around for up to half an hour without pay while managers searched their bags.

In Star Wars news, composer John Williams will be returning to score the seventh film in the series, having done the music for the previous six installments. Over Doctor Who way, the 50th anniversary episode — the one which current companion Jenna Coleman says changes everything — will air November 23rd, with plans for the show to be simulcast in 200 countries around the world. (The show is broadcast at 7:00 p.m. in the United Kingdom, so make the calculations for your time zone here.)

And finally, Radio Times is reporting that Netflix will temporarily remove Star Trek III: The Search for Spock from its streaming inventory while it adds authentic subtitles for the film’s dialogue that’s spoken in the Klingon and Vulcan languages instead of having missing subtitles or the lines dubbed in English. This has been a complaint from fans of the film for quite awhile, although some may not need subtitles anyway. yIn nI’ yISIQ ‘ej yIchep!

Episode 36: Talking Apps and Malware Traps

If you’re too busy to get news headlines, weather updates or the latest social media posts from your friends, not to worry! J.D. introduces to some apps that will read them all for you. Sony announced its long awaited PS4 gaming-console this week and one feature captures El Kaisers attention: Ultra HD support. Pedro fills us in on the new video format in his Tech Term of the Week. In the news, Nasa’s Mars Rover drills into Martian soil for the first time; meteors rain down on Russia; Ubuntu gets into the tablet and smartphone business; Facebook contemplates autoplay video ads; and Apple gets hit by a virus attack.